Talking Animals in British Children's Fiction, 1786–1914  book cover
1st Edition

Talking Animals in British Children's Fiction, 1786–1914

ISBN 9781138266346
Published November 15, 2016 by Routledge
216 Pages

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Book Description

In her reappraisal of canonical works such as Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, Wind in the Willows, and Peter Rabbit, Tess Cosslett traces how nineteenth-century debates about the human and animal intersected with, or left their mark on, the venerable genre of the animal story written for children. Effortlessly applying a range of critical approaches, from Bakhtinian ideas of the carnivalesque to feminist, postcolonial, and ecocritical theory, she raises important questions about the construction of the child reader, the qualifications of the implied author, and the possibilities of children's literature compared with literature written for adults. Perhaps most crucially, Cosslett examines how the issues of animal speech and animal subjectivity were managed, at a time when the possession of language and consciousness had become a vital sign of the difference between humans and animals. Topics of great contemporary concern, such as the relation of the human and the natural, masculine and feminine, child and adult, are investigated within their nineteenth-century contexts, making this an important book for nineteenth-century scholars, children's literature specialists, and historians of science and childhood.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Animals in 18th-century children's books; Fabulous histories and papillonades; Animal autobiography; Parables and fairy-tales; Wild animal stories; Arcadias?; Afterword; Bibliography; Index.

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Tess Cosslett is Reader in Victorian Studies and Women's Writing at Lancaster University, UK. She has recently taken up an interest in children's literature, and teaches a course at Lancaster on the subject. She has published widely on literature and science, women's fiction and autobiography and children's literature.


'. . . adds to our understanding of both animal/human relationships and to children’s literature. With careful attention to historical context and insightful analyses of texts and images, Cosslett decodes the cultural message of animal stories from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, tracing the impact of the creation of the modern "child," religion, Darwinism, and imperialism. Her book makes an important contribution to the current debate over 'anthropomorphism' as a way of advancing animal rights by showing how today's arguments were prefigured in texts such as Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, Wind in the Willows, and Peter Rabbit.' Martin Danahay, Professor of English, Brock University 'Like all worthwhile literary history or criticism, Talking Animals's major premise reverberates well beyond its contribution to its stated focus, in this case examining the frequent appearances of talking animals in fiction designated as children's literature... relevant reading for anyone concerned with the continued evolution of the human-animal bond.' Anthrozoös ’Cosslett's attention to critically neglected literature makes this an illuminating and entertaining study.’ Journal of Victorian Culture ’... it is a book that discusses a lot of material that is too often neglected, treating it with welcome intelligence and sympathy.’ Children's Books History Society Newsletter ’... a meticulous study... Cosslett's scholarship and research is very solid... a valuable resource for scholars interested in early British children's literature, in talking animal stories, and in the historical and cultural context that contributed to the rise of the talking animal story.’ Children's Literature Association Quarterly ’... a significant contribution to the developing literature on animals in children's literature. We should look forward to Tess Cosslett producing a sequel.’ Journal of Children's Literature Studies